Valdimar Jóhannsson crafts a beautifully haunting dark fable in rural Iceland. I just wish it had more to say.
A24’s Lamb opens during a blizzard in the Icelandic countryside as an unseen threat disrupts a nearby flock of sheep. There is a slow building and palpable sense of dread throughout this film. It is more unsettling than horrifying and moves at a pace we’ve come to expect from its prolific distributor.
Technically this film is a marvel. The compositions from a relatively static camera are breathtaking. The stark Icelandic landscape features prominently with painterly shots of it’s mountains, rivers, and valleys. There are some gorgeous close-ups and the slightly desaturated color grade really fit it’s pastoral feel. This film has the best sound I’ve heard all year. It sounded beautifully tactile and immersive throughout, and really made me feel present with the characters. The VFX team had a tall order and mostly succeed here, though there are definitely sloppy moments that took me out of that immersion. “Lamb” is buoyed by some stellar performance from all of the leads, and even some livestock too.
Even with the expectation of an A24 “horror” film, the pacing felt glacial. Generally, longer shots and slower pacing are signaling something deeper to chew on thematically but there is not much beneath the surface here to deconstruct. It has themes of grief, finding purpose, and environmentalism, all wrapped in religious references and imagery. Unfortunately though, it doesn’t say much outside the scope of its cautionary fable roots. “Lamb” has an interesting concept, gorgeous cinematography and raw performances, but the lack of any significant revelations left the ending feeling abrupt and unsatisfying.